Friday, December 23, 2011

A Message from Gloria Steinem to the Public Regarding the Trafficking of Girls and Women

While I wish it were the case that Western whites asking for money wasn't necessary to achieve justice and liberation for all girls and women worldwide, it remains the case that whites asking for money to support the activism of women of color is an on-going necessity. This is so in large part because whites in the West have much more money than people of color in the West, and whites listen to whites more than to people of color, especially female people of color.

With gratitude to all the women and girls, white and of color, who work so hard to liberate women and girls from systems of gross exploitation, economic abuse, and misogynistic harm.

I was what follows by email and may also be found *here*:

Apne Aap International

Dear Friend of Women and Girls, 
Many things have changed in the years since I lived in India as a student, but one thing that has continued - and grown worse as the worldwide network of sex trafficking has spread - is the destruction of the lives of women and girls bought and sold in the sex industry.
When I go back to the India that I love - the world's largest democracy, one in which a greater percentage of people vote than in the United States - I know I can go to a section of all major cities and see young women lined up in the street like cattle. If I look through the doorways of brothels in, say, Sonagachi, the main sex trafficking district of Kolkata, I can see the little girls of six or ten that brothel owners tell reporters don't exist.
Among the brave people in India fighting this lethal sex trafficking industry is my friend Ruchira Gupta. A journalist herself, Ruchira was reporting on rural poverty, and was surprised to find villages with almost no young girls and women. When she asked why, she was told, "Don't you know?  They've all been taken to Mumbai and Kolkata."
Once she discovered the depth of this reality for at least three million women and girls in India - entrapped, de-humanized and often sent to an early death by injury, despair and disease - she started Apne Aap, which means Self Help; a healing and respectful safe place where women and girls could find refuge, support, advocacy, community and skills to support themselves and their children.
Ten years later, Apne Aap Women Worldwide has grown into a model for anti-sex trafficking activists in other countries. It now has centers in New Delhi and Bihar, as well as Kolkata, and it supports human rights against the sex trafficking and prostitution industry, from working for legislation and law enforcement at the top to offering alternatives and community at the bottom.
The truth is that if Apne Aap had as many supporters outside India as the brothel owners have foreign customers - men from rich countries who literally buy "sex tours" to exploit the poverty of women and children in India - Apne Aap would win.
At an Apne Aap community center, each woman and girl gains access to vocational training, literacy classes, basic education, and learning about her rights and how to recognize when they've been denied. She learns how to file a police report. And I'm proud to announce that in the last year, four teenage girls campaigned against their traffickers and helped to put those criminals behind bars. This is the way the law should function, but sadly, this story is the exception.
In addition to your financial contribution, Apne Aap appeals for your support to help strengthen the Indian anti-trafficking law, the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act. By signing on, you will be joining Apne Aap's thousands of members in asking for measures that protect girls and women, and impose realistic penalties on the pimps, johns, and traffickers who exploit them. Click here to sign the petition. 
I am personally inspired by the bravery, wisdom, innovation and impact of this small organization. It has transformed the scared, abused, uneducated girls and women I met when I first visited India into women who are speaking out for themselves and for others, from the halls of government to international survivors' conferences.
I ask for your support for all the women of Apne Aap. They have given you and me a practical, hopeful way out of the worldwide human rights abuse of sex trafficking.
No longer will you feel helpless, with nowhere to start, when you see and read the news.
And that is a gift in itself -- for you -- or for friends and family in whose name you contribute.
With new hope,

Gloria Steinem
Advisory Committee Chair
Apne Aap Women Worldwide

Gloria in Forbesganj  
** Donations made in India to Apne Aap Women Worldwide or in the United States to Apne Aap International are tax deductible.

Happy Solstice, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and Hanukkah to all my readers

Winter Blessings Pictures, Photos, and Images for Facebook, Tumblr ...
image is from here
And to those who celebrate none of the above, a very Happy New Year if you celebrate that holiday at this time of year.

Thank you to each of you, dear reader--whether you are new or have been reading here for a longer time.

Thank you for being part of the efforts of this blog to expand and deepen consciousness, and also to support and incite activism geared to bringing into the present a wider world of women of all colors and ages free from patriarchal and white/racist abuses and systems of political and economic oppression.

Blessings to every one of you.

Love, Julian

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Yanar Mohammed on the On-going White and Male Supremacist Occupation of Iraq by the US: "This is not a democratic country." ... "Women are the biggest losers in all of this."

image of cartoon is from here

I am hearing arrogant and ridiculous reports in the US from media (owned by corporations that wish to control the minds of any who listen) that Iraq is now a sovereign state. We must ask: if Iraq had as much "presence" in the US, on US soil, would conservative racist/white supremacist white men in the US consider this a sovereign state? Doubtful. What we'd do in response to even a threat of such an occupation is amp up our racist/white supremacist campaigns against all people of color, wage more wars against Central Asia, and do so in the name of "freedom". The arrogance is also showing up in the brazenness of corporate media representatives admitting why US forces occupied and are still illegally and criminally in Iraq. (Not that the US media calls it a crime or a violation, mind you.)

Recently, NBC News, on a program called Rock Center, admitted in very clear language that the US is NOT leaving Iraq, and that many forces remain, including the CIA and other cover operations. (See *here* for more.)

When major corporate news sources admit, also, that the US went to war against the Iraqi people to occupy the country to protect unjust, criminal access to oil reserves there (as if the US has a right to all oil everywhere, and may stake out claims to it using the most blunt and horrific military force at will). But possession of oil and possession of land is all part of a larger struggle at global imperialism which, as you may know, is laid out in a plan concocted by the likes of Donald Rumsfeld--who you'll hear from later in this post--Paul Wolfowitz, and Dick Cheney. Each of those men should be in prison for life for crimes against humanity. For more on this blatantly white male supremacist/Western imperialist effort, see *here*.

What follows is from Democracy Now!, *here*.

Iraqi Women’s Activist Rebuffs U.S. Claims of a Freer Iraq: "This Is Not a Democratic Country"

Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, joins us to discuss the impact of the nearly nine-year U.S. occupation, particularly on Iraqi women. "The Iraqi cities are now much more destroyed than they were, I would say, like five years ago," Mohammed says. "In the same time, we have turned to a society of 99 percent poor and 1 percent rich, due to the policies that were imposed in Iraq." Mohammed decries the repression of Iraqi protesters that joined the Arab Spring in a February 25th action. "The women are the biggest loser in all of this. We went to the Iraqi squares. We demonstrated. The Arab Spring was there very strongly but got oppressed in ways that were new to Iraqi people. Anti-riot police of the American style was something that we witnessed there... This is not a democratic country." [includes rush transcript]

AMY GOODMAN: We wanted to also bring into this discussion Yanar Mohammed. She is president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. Usually in Iraq, she right now is joining us from Toronto.
Yanar, talk about this last more than eight years of the invasion and the occupation.
YANAR MOHAMMED: If I start with the basics, the Iraqi cities are now much more destroyed than they were, I would say, like five years ago. All the major buildings are still destroyed. If you drive in the streets of the capital, your car cannot survive more than one month, because all the streets are still broken. So there was no reconstruction for the buildings, for the cities.
And in the same time, we have turned to a society of 99 percent poor and 1 percent rich, due to the policies that were imposed in Iraq. While Iraq has more than one million widows—some of the counts say one million, some of the counts say two million widows—these widows try to survive on a salary of $150, and most of them cannot get this salary because they don’t have proper ID due to internal displacement. And in the same time, the 1 percent, who lives—of Iraqis, who lives in the Green Zone, they drown in a sea of money. And there was a scandal of losing $40 billion from the annual budget of the country, and nobody is accountable for it. So we have—after nine years, we have the most corrupt government in the world.
We are divided to a society of Shias, who are ruling, and Sunnis, who want to get divided from the country of Iraq. We are now on the verge of the division of country according to religions. And to ethnicities, it has already happened. We know that the Kurdish north is now a Kurdistan, the region of Kurdistan. And the constitution that we have in Iraq allows everybody to get divided or to get their autonomy. So now the Sunni parts of Iraq, they want to be their own agents. They don’t want to be part of the central government anymore. And in the same time, destruction is everywhere. Poverty is for all the people but the 1 percent who are living inside the Green Zone.
And I would like to add one thing. If President Obama wants to make it sound like one unified society, that’s not the true story. We are living in a huge military camp, where one million Iraqi men are recruited in the army. And on top of that, there’s almost 50,000 militia members, of the Sadr group and the other Islamist group, who are not only local militias, like army within the country, but they are now being exported to other countries to oppress the Arab Spring in Syria and maybe later on in other countries. We are not a united country, because the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is another country, has the upper hand in Iraq. And the decisions that were done lately about who stays from the Americans and who doesn’t stay inside Iraq was due to the pressure of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They are the decision makers in Iraq.
And the biggest loser out of all of this are the women. Now, by the constitution, there are articles that refer us to the Islamic sharia, when this was not in action in the times of the previous regime. Under Islamic sharia, women are worth half a man legally and one-quarter of a man socially in a marriage. And we still suffer under this. As a women’s organization, we daily meet women who are vulnerable to being bought and sold in the flesh market. We see widows who have no source of income, and nobody to get them IDs for themselves and their children, because they have been internally displaced. So poverty and discrimination against women has become the norm. And the government doesn’t care much about this. They talk about it a lot, but not much is being done about it. And—
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yanar, I’d like to ask you, on another matter, the—we had a quote earlier in the show from President Obama saying that, unlike historical empires of the past, the United States doesn’t go into countries for territory or resources, but because it’s right. Could you talk to us about what has happened to the resources of Iraq, to the oil of Iraq? To what degree now are American companies involved that they were not before the war?
YANAR MOHAMMED: In the last year, we were told that Iraq’s economy is going to be changing, and there’s going to be a new phase of investment. But in reality, those who were invited into the Green Zone were surprised to see that it’s all about privatization, that we have new foreign oil companies. Some of them are already functioning in the south, like British Petroleum, who have an oil field from which they are extracting oil.
They are beginning to—they have brought some foreign workers to work in there, and they have totally discriminatory workplaces where the foreigner is paid much more than the Iraqi. I was told that the foreigners are paid in the thousands of dollars monthly, while an Iraqi employees is paid something like $400. And even the workplaces are very discriminatory and racist, in the sense that the foreigner workers are treated much better than the Iraqi employees.
And the question is, how did they get these foreign oil companies to come into Iraq? Like British Petroleum is one of them. It has many oil fields. It’s functioning. It’s extracting Iraqi oil. On which terms? We, the Iraqi people, don’t know. On which agreement did they come and they are functioning fully in Iraq? We, the Iraqi people, don’t know.
And the question is, why is all the money being shared by the 1 percent who are ruling Iraq and the U.S. administration and all these multinational companies, while the Iraqi widows cannot even have $150 as a salary? Most of the widows we’ve met in our organization do not have one penny coming into their pockets. No government finds themselves accountable for the women of Iraq, who have been turned deprived because of this war.
And I would like to add one thing. There is a new generation of women and men in Iraq who are totally illiterate. You see a woman in her twenties. She might have children, or not, and that’s another story about the widows. But she has witnessed no schooling because of the sectarian war, because of the war on Iraq. It’s a generation of illiteracy in Iraq, while, before this war, you know, we know that Iraq in the 1980s, and even in the following years, it had the highest literacy rate in the Arab world.
And the last point I would like to add, and I would have liked you to ask me about it, is the Arab Spring, when it started in Iraq, specifically on the day of February 25. When the government held a curfew in all the Iraqi cities, especially in Baghdad, we had to walk three hours to reach to the Tahrir Square of Baghdad, and 25,000 people were in that square expressing their political will that this is not the political system that they want to rule them—the Islamist government of the Shia, who is oppressing all the others, the Sunni, who are oppressed in the west, the ethnic divisions on the people.
And mind you, the gender divisions? In the Tahrir Square of Baghdad, many of us women were there, and we were so respected. Nobody told us to put on the veil on, while in these days the prime minister’s office is spreading out policies that all the female workers in the public sector will have to wear decent dress code—decent as in respecting our culture. The prime minister is imposing a mentality of discriminating against women based on Islamic sharia, while the demonstrators of the Arab Spring in Iraq want an egalitarian society.
And one thing that this new democracy, so-called democracy, proved in Iraq is that they were the best in oppressing the Arab Spring in Iraq. They sent us police, army and anti-riot groups to shoot us with live ammunition in the Tahrir Square. They detained and they tortured hundreds and thousands of us demonstrators. And this is because we only led a free demonstration.
And this is not only one demonstration. All the Fridays since the beginning of February have witnessed demonstrations in the main squares of Iraq—Baghdad, Sulaymaniyah, Basra, Samarra, all of Baghdad. People went into the squares, and there were no slogans of asking for a religious government. The U.S. administration came into Iraq: it divided the Iraqi people according to religion, according to their sect, according to their ethnicity. It’s divide and conquer. And now the women are the biggest loser in all of this. We went to the Iraqi squares. We demonstrated. The Arab Spring was there very strongly but got oppressed in ways that were new to Iraqi people. Anti-riot police of the American style was something that we witnessed there. The big vehicles that sprayed us with the hot water, polluted water, pushed us out of these squares. And sound bombs were thrown at us, live ammunition, the full works. This is not a democratic country. And it is not united, because it’s being divided into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions.
AMY GOODMAN: Yanar, I wanted to end by going back to the beginning, if you will, going back to 2003 to the words of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld after the fall of Baghdad.
DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: Iraqis celebrating in the streets, riding American tanks, tearing down the statues of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad, are breathtaking. Watching them, one cannot help but think of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Iron Curtain. We are seeing history unfold, events that will shape the course of a country, the fate of a people, and potentially the future of the region.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Donald Rumsfeld in 2003. Yanar, we have 30 seconds. Your final response?
YANAR MOHAMMED: I think that the victims and the parents of the victims of this war, the half-a-million dead of this war, were not invited to the celebration of the U.S. and the military in Baghdad. They should have been invited to give their say about this Iraqi war that left their families hungry and poor and really unable and helpless.
AMY GOODMAN: Yanar Mohammed, I want to thank you for being with us, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.

Monday, December 12, 2011

CNN Heroes: Soap, Water, Land, Shelter, are all Feminist Issues

Diane Latiker Nonprofit: Kids Off the Block What it does: Gives young people in Chicago a place to hang out and learn valuable life skills so they can stay off the streets and away from rampant gang violence
Diane says: "What I want people to know is that the work that I and so many others do can literally be the difference between life and death for a generation that seems to have lost all hope. ... If I can make a change in a generation, then my community's going to get better -- because they're going to be the ones that take it over."
Exploring the issue: In several cities around the world, streetwise "interrupters" are trying to stop teen violence before it starts.
Donate to Kids Off the Block

Robin Lim Nonprofit: Yayasan Bumi Sehat What it does: Offers free prenatal care, birthing services and medical aid to low-income women in Indonesia
Robin says: "Because the cost of childbirth often exhausts the family's income, the poor and even the middle-income people of the world find themselves in a downward spiral of suffering and loss, just when they should be celebrating the births of their babies."
Exploring the issue: Many women in the developing world do not have access to contraception or maternal care.
Donate to Yayasan Bumi Sehat

Derreck Kayongo
Nonprofit: Global Soap Project What it does: Collects partially used hotel soap in the United States, reprocesses it and then sends it abroad to save lives in impoverished countries
Derreck says: "Because of our work, this world is going to be a better place than we found it -- with no soap being thrown away and with no child or woman ... or any vulnerable populous left without a bar of soap to fend off disease."
Exploring the issue: In developing countries around the world, millions of children lack access to soap and clean water.
Donate to Global Soap Project

What appears above is from *here*.

Watching CNN's annual presentation of honors to various activists around the world, called CNN Heroes, reminds me, once again, of how many issues there are facing women and girls around the world. Far more issues than face those of us who are relatively wealthy, sheltered, and regionally advantaged.

Soap is needed to cleanse the skin of lethal bacteria. Clean, safe, accessible, free water is needed to live and be well. Unpoisoned and unoccupied land is a requirement for self-determination, community, spiritual health, and overall well-being. If one's land and water is occupied and possessed, or ravaged and poisoned by corporate power, by men, or by White-World settlers and invaders, it is difficult to sustain one's own life and the life of one's people. Safe, sturdy shelter is an increasingly rare thing. For women and girls to be physically safe, walls must offer protection from harmful forces both outside and inside.

What CNN Heroes does is to highlight (for two hours each year) activism by individuals, not collective activism designed to overthrow tyrannical and oppressive regimes, including regimes of men warring against women and girls. You will not hear the terms "white supremacy" or "male supremacy" or "the savage blood-thirst of the Western World" named as such in programs produced for CNN. It will honor amazing individuals only as long as those individuals do not publicly call for massive systemic change that disadvantages US corporate, raced, and patriarchal power.

What would the effect on the world be if all Western news media reported 24 hours a day/365 days a year on the necessity and value of anti-oppression activism? When will activists be given more than a few minutes to express thanks to CNN and instead detail how US corporate and military (patriarchal, imperialist) power murders millions of people, mostly poor, of color, and female?

When will Anderson Cooper speak to this in ways that educate his audience to the systemic, institutionalised dimensions of the harms spoken of in this annual special? I wonder. Because as long as the masses of media consumers are led to think that globalised atrocities and injustices are caused by unorganised or merely unfortunate events, we are left ignorant about how to properly support those activists who are working for radical social-political-economic change. And how to be those activists too.